Buffy Sainte-Marie has been big news lately. I have no interest in either joining the pile-on or proclaiming Buffy's innocence, but I do have some thoughts to share.
Thank you for this. I bought her early LPs and cherished them, along with my Ochs LPs. My own feeling about this story is that it is possible to be caught up in a lie that becomes fact as you never manage to correct or deny it. Many of us can identify with this, and know we have escaped retribution due to our "ordinaryness".
Whatever her faults, the songs were remarkable, and I shall remember that.
Like you, David, I am a musician, singer. I am Buffy's age. I started trying to have a career at the same time. I had Baez, Collins, Travers and lots of other young pretty female performers to compete with but the doors closed for me as I am not a capitalist. I watched Buffy fund the occupation of Alcatraz & do a lot for those who are indigenous. She also stole from them the honors that should have gone to them, but went to her. Her music deserved them. But she isn't indigenous. The music "business" ended my striving for that kind of career and I have been running simple singing groups in
3 Bay Area cities for 51 years. I've been teaching the history of this country through the songs people sang & brought with them from their places of origin. Without being a commercial success, I have passed on all kinds of music including labor music, ballads, music from Hawaii and Indigenous people from the US, Australia, Ireland and more. I really liked your article. You are very tuned in and clear. Thanks
Sing Thing Sandi Morey
Lovely, compassionate and supportive piece on Buffy Sainte-Marie. Thank you, David.
I may not live to see it, but I hope the day will come when an actual indigenous singer remakes a hit of 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "Native North American Child" or "Now That the Buffalo's Gone." "The Universal Soldier" can be sung by anyone.
I'm unsure what to say I always thought she was indigenous I guess I was naive still even after everything I absorbed information wise still ended up getting fooled again! I have a single indigenous relative who died before I was born but looks like my mom's twin with dark skin I don't remember her name and my mom said something like the bloodline tying us to her has dried up which is why neither my mom nor I look anything like my great Great Grandma I will endlessly be curious what her life was like good or bad I might ask my mom what her name was again since I forgot it but regardless I am a kind hearted person and that's all it took for me to WANT to support indigenous communities in small ways like donating to Indian Country Today or support indigenous children in having the freedom to speak their own language and dress as they wish donating to Honor The Earth a water protector organization searching and either listening to indigenous/native music artists mostly rock but other types too watching both documentaries and indigenous/native directed starring and funded movies shows of the multiple times I ran into a person of indigenous/native descent I would listen to what they had to say and give my opinion on things when asked I felt honored that I was interesting enough to want to share anything with Kind hearted people are good no matter appearance language or clothing I found out the lady Jacqueline Keeler is herself an indigenous/native activist so can't argue with that and after reading why she started exposing people who pretend to have native/indigenous backgrounds who become wealthy and well known for it I can't even argue with her reasoning either I guess like you David I didn't want to believe it I have nothing else to add
“Lies that life is black and white”/ good and bad / dark and light”... I look white but identify as Native and Celtic, but what difference does it make? Last time I saw Buffy she was en route to a pow wow.
She’s a wonderful singer, but she probably did benefit from a pretty big lie. And that is not okay. She’s not the only one; at least a few other prominent Americans have also done so. That said, perhaps the solution is to worry a lot less about race, and we’d have less people taking advantage of it. That goes for both political sides, particularly at the extremes.
Buffy and The Big Ones Get Away is up there with the best political songs
Good essay, David. As my mother used to say, "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." Regardless of why Buffy came to identify as a native and build her career around that identity, her songs and activism stand on their own merits. At least one native tribe has adopted her into their fold; that is good enough for me. And much of her music has nothing to do with native identity: Universal Soldier would be a very apt example at the moment.
By the way, for Apple computer users, I found I couldn't post on the Mojave version of Safari . No post button appeared. But it works properly on Firefox.
Its a pity that an artist and activist who has given us so much would end up on the same page with Iron Eyes Cody. But there you are. The levelling gravity of time strikes again